Thomas Holme grabbed his jacket. A cool breeze whisked across his face as he hurriedly walked to Bennie’s house. The boys had been friends since the family moved to the neighborhood from the rural farmlands of Iowa. Thomas was six when he met Bennie at the local park. Not many kids stayed home for school like he did, so he was bored. He decided to walk to the park a few blocks away. That’s where he met Bennie.
“What cha doing down there?" Startled, the kid looked up at the freckled-face boy.
“Oh, I was, uh ... I was looking at a bug. It looks weird.” The boy straightened his glasses.
“Can I see?” Thomas asked.
“Can I borrow your magnifier for a sec?”
He handed it to Thomas.
“What is it?” asked Bennie.
“A Striped Cucumber Beetle!”
“Striped Cucumber Beetle. You can tell by its color. See how bright it is?” he said, pointing at the bug.
“I was wondering about that,” he said, scratching his head. “It’s yellow like a bee, but it doesn’t look—”
“Na. It’s head is black and wings have three stripes. But I’m surprised to see it out here,” Thomas glanced over the area. “I don’t see any vegetables.”
“How do you know this?”
Thomas dusted off his hands. “My family's new here. But our old house had a vegetable garden. We always saw them when we were pruning the yard. They were eating our veggies!”
“So what happened?”
"My mom turned it into a class."
"Like at school?!"
"Yeah, I'm home schooled."
"Cool." the boy said, fuddling to stand. “I’m Bennie, what's your name?”
Bennie was a heavy set kid, with dark cocoa skin, rimmed glasses and short tight curled hair. An only child, he was cautious around new people, but Thomas seemed interesting.
“So what happened?” Bennie asked.
"We found out about him and the Spotted Cucumber Beetle; they both love vegetables, especially…”
“Yeah. Bitter ones. They chewed holes into our plants giving them a virus. After that they wouldn’t grow.”
“So what’d you do?” Bennie asked.
“Pulled them up and replanted less bitter cucumbers, that way we could keep the bugs from getting out of control.”
The boys talked more about bugs, nature, and their different schools.
Thomas' thoughts shifted as he neared Bennie's house and saw him walking up ahead.
“Hey Bennie!” he shouted. “I beat you.”
"It was a tie!" Bennie said.
"Nope, got here faster by a nose hair."
“Ah, That’s cause you don’t have to wait on a bus."
Bennie rolled his eyes. "Got the plans?”
“Yeah." he said, digging in his pocket. "Snuck ‘em out before my nosey sister found out.”
“So what if she knows?”
“She’s friends with Shawna Parker, Trey's little sister!”
“Last year’s first place competition! All she has to do is mention to Shawna that her brother is working on a kart for the race and…”
“And Trey will find out, and then he’ll spy on us and think of some big plot to make us lose or something.” said Bennie, mockingly.
“Yeah ... he could do that.” said Thomas.
“Give me a break, kid. Trey has bigger fish to fry.” Bennie said, shuffling his backpack.
“You say that now, but I say better safe than sorry. You finished second last year; wouldn’t you think you were a threat?” Thomas looked leery then whispered, “matter of fact, let’s talk in your garage.”
Bennie shrugged. “All right.”
The boys headed inside.
The Dunbar family lived in Creekland neighborhood for about seven years. They moved there from the city after Mr. Dunbar became an independent contractor. Business had gone well, and with a new son, the couple decided to move to the suburbs.
“Hi Mrs. Dunbar!”
“Thomas is that you?” she asked.
“How are you boys today?”
“We’re fine, just gonna work on the kart.”
“Okay, don’t be too long, Bennie. You’ve got homework to do.” said Mrs. Dunbar. She was in her late thirties; a stout woman, with caramel skin and warm almond eyes.
“All right, Mom.”
“Thomas, tell your mother I said, ‘hello.’”
She continued drying out a mixing bowl, leaving the boys behind.
Thomas laughed, “I love it.”
“Love what?” Bennie asked, straightening his glasses.
“You go to outdoor school and still have to study when you get home!”
“Very funny. At least I get out every day. You’re stuck with your little sister and the walls to keep you company.”
The boys laughed and went into the garage.